DEAR JOHANNA: What do you know about cats chasing their tails?
Our cat, who found us and said: “I live here now, feed myself”, chased its tail (before), if only once or twice. For the past week he has appeared to be aggressively after his cock.
I know this is worrying. Of course I have to take him to the vet. What questions should the veterinarian ask themselves in order to make the correct diagnosis? Should I go to UC Davis?
Joan, Palo Cedro
DEAR JOHANNA: It is normal for kittens to chase their tails, but less so in adult cats. Any time a pet exhibits strange, inexplicable behavior, it’s time to see the vet.
Your regular vet should be able to handle this. If you don’t have a veterinarian, look for one who specializes in small animals or cats. It is possible – not likely, but possible – that you will need a specialist, but this is a good place to start.
Tail chasing could be something benign, such as making the cat bored. He could also have a flea problem. Fleas are known to collect at the base of the tail and cause itching and irritation. Your cat may be trying to get to the itchy area.
Your cat may also have an anal infection or an infection on its tail that causes itching and discomfort.
A less likely cause could be allergies, either from food or something in the environment. They can cause itchy or sensitive skin all over your body. You would most likely see a rash or an ear infection if your cat has an allergic reaction.
You didn’t tell if your cat was spayed, but if not, tail chasing could be a sign of a supracaudal gland infection. Sebum glands secrete oils that help keep your cat’s fur nice and silky, but they can lead to a build-up of waxy material usually around the base of the tail, which is more common in intact males. Look for matted, crusty hair there.
Some cats have a rare disease called hyperesthesia syndrome, which is overactive nerve endings that can cause tingling and discomfort when touched.
Otherwise, tail hunting shouldn’t be a major problem, although if the cat is too aggressive it can result in injury.
Sign up for our new, free Flora + Fauna newsletter to receive more topics on wildlife, gardens and backyards.
DEAR JOHANNA: I read your column every day and have always listened to your advice to people about the health of their pets. I laughed at the one about a cat watching TV because I have three Chihuahuas who are doing it.
When we go to bed and watch TV, two of them watch TV in case they show any four-legged animals. They start barking loudly and walk to the end of the bed to jump into the TV. I have to watch with the remote in hand and my finger on the channel button. When a horse or cow shows up, the two of them just turn their heads as if to identify them. Birds, dolphins or fish are so far not important to them.
DEAR JULIO: So far, my Chihuahua has only responded to one TV offer, a commercial that has the fake scream of a swordfish. That really makes him stand out. Not sure if it’s the sound or a review of the ad.
Do you have a question for Johanna?
Use this form to ask questions. Photos should be sent separately to firstname.lastname@example.org.